Newcastle researchers awarded $750,000 to help heart health

Monday, 11 December 2017


Six Hunter researchers will focus on helping Australians have better heart health by investigating the causes, treatment and prevention of heart disease, after securing more than $750,000 in funding from the Heart Foundation.

Heart Funding - small

Heart disease remains Australia’s leading cause of death, killing more than 34,000 people across NSW in one year alone.

Professor Andrew Boyle* will use the funding to investigate methods to reduce the pressure in the heart immediately following a heart attack.

The project, Reduction of End Diastolic Pressure in Acute Myocardial Infarction - The RED PAMI trial, will be a single-centre, randomised, controlled trial at the John Hunter Hospital.

High pressure within the heart immediately after a heart attack, despite timely intervention to open the blocked artery, is associated with adverse outcomes, including dilation of the heart chambers, heart failure and increased mortality,” Professor Boyle said.

“However, there have been no clinical trials specifically aimed at early reduction of high pressure in the heart.  We propose to lower this pressure with commonly-used medications including nitrates, to decrease the workload of the heart and frusemide to reduce the amount of fluid in the system, to prevent abnormal heart chamber dilatation and heart failure,” Professor Boyle said.

Patients will undergo cardiac magnetic resonance imaging immediately after the heart attack and three months later to assess heart function, heart chamber size and volume, and the extent of the heart muscle damage due to the heart attack.

“Our study could pave the way for larger clinical trials and future use of this cheap medication combination in this high risk patient group and will help in reducing heart failure and mortality after major heart attacks.”

Other Hunter researchers who received Heart Foundation funding include:

Dr Melinda Hutchesson

Be Healthe for your Heart: Preventing cardiovascular disease among women with a history of pre-eclampsia:

Women with a history of pre-eclampsia are three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease  than women without it. However, currently in Australia women do not routinely receive any advice on future cardiovascular disease  prevention. Dr Hutchesson’s* project aims to address this gap by evaluating a targeted and tailored eHealth lifestyle program (Be Healthe for your Heart) for women with a history of pre-eclampsia in the post-partum period. The program promotes key healthy eating, physical activity and weight management strategies to prevent CVD. It will be delivered using a variety of technologies, including apps, social media, text messages and email.

Dr Myles Young

Testing an online program to reduce cardiovascular risk in overweight and obese men with depression:

Obesity and depression are two of the largest contributors to heart disease in men. Promising evidence suggests that behaviour-change programs can be used to treat both obesity and depression. Dr Young’s* project will be the first study internationally to evaluate the effect of a gender-tailored weight loss program designed specifically for overweight/obese men with depression. SHED-IT: Recharge will be a self-directed, e-health program that includes evidence-based education and strategies to help men lose weight, manage their mood and improve their health behaviours. In turn, these changes will greatly reduce their risk of heart disease. The project also has funding support from Newcastle firm Daracon through HMRI.

Associate Professor Aaron Sverdlov  

Bench-to-bedside approach to improving management and outcomes for patients with heart failure:

Heart failure is the commonest and most disabling form of chronic cardiovascular disease. Up to half of the patients have a specific problem with heart muscle relaxation for which there is no effective therapy.  With an overall aim of improving management and outcomes for patients with heart failure, Associate Professor Sverdlov’s research program will focus on:

1. Developing a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying heart failure due to obesity, which may lead to new targeted therapies

2. Novel biomarkers for early detection of cardiac abnormalities, and

3. Intensive weight loss program to improve outcomes in heart failure patients.

Associate Professor Coralie English

Stand up for your blood pressure after stroke:  

Associate Professor English’s* research group is leading the world in understanding the biological effects of inactivity on the cardiovascular health of stroke survivors. Results from their recently completed study, Breaking Up Sitting Time after Stroke (BUST) showed that short, regular bouts of gentle exercises in standing during the day significantly reduced blood pressure compared to eight hours of uninterrupted sitting. This new study, BUST-BP-Dose, will determine the optimal and most feasible, ‘dose’ of activity to reduce blood pressure and cardiovascular risk. Results will inform Heart Foundation guidelines for self-management of high blood pressure for people with cardiovascular disease and will be of international significance with applicability to other highly sedentary clinical populations.

Dr Sze Lin Yoong

This is a travel grant in relation to Dr Yoong’s existing Heart Foundation postdoctoral fellowship “Childcare-based interventions to improve children's fruit and vegetable consumption”.

* Professor Boyle is Director of the UON Priority Clinical Centre for Cardiovascular Health, Professor of John Hunter Hospital Cardiovascular Department, and a member of HMRI’s Cardiovascular research group.

* Dr Young researches with UON’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition and HMRI’s cardiovascular program.

* Associate Professor Coralie English researches with the University’s Priority Research Centre for Stroke and Brain Injury

* Dr Hutchesson researches with UON’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition.

* Associate Professor Sverdlov, Director of Heart Failure, member of the UON Priority Clinical Centre for Cardiovascular Health, Hunter New England Health Clinical Academic Cardiologistand HMRI’s Cardiovascular research group.

* Dr Sze Lin Yoong researches with the UON Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour, is a Program Manager in HNE Population Health, and member of HMRI’s Public Health Program.

HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.